Volume 20, People in Disasters Special Issue

Contents - Volume 20, People in Disasters Special Issue

Published December 2016
Volume 20, People in Disasters Special Issue (complete issue)

Contents page - Volume 20, People in Disasters Special Issue

Special Issue Editorial

First International Conference on People in Disasters

Joanne M Deely & Michael W Ardagh

Keywords: Canterbury earthquakes, Australian bushfires and floods, psychosocial wellbeing, mental illness, community response

The first International People in Disasters Conference was held in Christchurch, Aotearoa/New Zealand, from 24 to 26 February 2016. The conference showcased the dilemmas of living and working within a disaster context, and best practice approaches to response and recovery. The Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, particularly the earthquake of 22 February 2011, were the disasters of most interest to delegates. Key messages driving this conference were: that people’s narratives are healing; to learn from lessons of past disasters; that human-animal bonds are important; to trust each other; that shared leadership and decision-making works best; that ethnic minorities contribute to a holistic response and recovery; that long-term mental health care is required; and to transform to a new future. These key messages were embedded in the conference themes: response, recovery, and resilience. New insight was provided on the value of community and cultural groups as first responders. The significant role of community responses after the Christchurch Earthquake led to Aotearoa/New Zealand’s Ministry of Social Development revising its disaster policy to support community initiatives. Other important topics included: 1) diminished psychosocial wellbeing, 2) treatments for disaster-related mental illness, 3) initiatives that have empowered the psychosocial recovery of Christchurch’s population, and 4) resilient individuals and communities managing their own recovery. This Special Issue includes papers on: caring for companion animals, compassion fatigue of nurses, promoting Māori psychosocial recovery, family violence, managing diabetes post-disaster, comparing community recovery projects in Aotearoa/New Zealand and Japan, wellbeing of older people, and posttraumatic growth. As Guest Editors for this special edition, we are delighted with the results of the conference and hope that the following papers will be useful to researchers and practitioners working in the fields of disaster response, recovery, and resilience.

Research Papers

The Cat’s Cradle of Responsibility: Assigning and Taking Responsibility for Companion Animals in Natural Disasters

Cheryl Travers, Chris Degeling & Melanie Rock

Keywords: companion animal, responsibility, taxonomy, natural disaster, Black Saturday

Responsibility is often regarded as a unified concept. However in everyday language, the term refers to a cat’s cradle of related ideas and perceptions. Although there might be consensus that individuals should be ultimately responsible for their own animals during crises, individuals and groups may disagree about the norms and obligations we ought to adopt and what we owe to animals that are dependent on our care. A coherent account of responsibility for companion animals, or pets, in disasters is yet to be articulated. At the same time, there is good evidence showing that individuals and communities cope better during and after natural disasters when companion animals receive protection alongside their human families. Against this backdrop, the concept of responsibility is increasingly invoked in public communication as a motivation for pet owners to comply with emergency management plans. While top-level emergency managers seem clear on their responsibilities, studies have shown that operational-level emergency responders and service providers are less likely to know who is responsible for pets and in what ways. In this paper, we undertake a structured examination of how different concepts of responsibility are enacted around human-companion animal relationships in the context of natural disasters. Case examples from the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission are used to examine issues and challenges in the effective translation of the concept of responsibility into operational practice. We explore how a more structured approach, with sensitivity to both human and non-human vulnerabilities, may help front-line responders, service providers and policy-makers to better engage with owners concerning responsibility for their companion animals during disasters.

A Review of Compassion Fatigue of Nurses During and After the Canterbury Earthquakes

Jai Chung & Nicky Davies

Keywords: compassion fatigue, earthquake, emotional exhaustion, disaster, nursing

The significance of compassion fatigue in health professionals was highlighted during and after the Canterbury earthquakes, in New Zealand. A lack of consistent definition of and comprehension about compassion fatigue, particularly in relation to understanding disaster response processes, may impact upon nurses both emotionally and physically when caring for traumatised survivors. In light of this, the current article focuses on an exploration of national and international literature. Findings from this review include definitions and theories of compassion fatigue, exposure, impacts, and interventions. The international literature has demonstrated the significance of compassion fatigue for nurses as well as other health professionals; however, very little New Zealand literature specifically refers to compassion fatigue. Researchers in New Zealand tend to view the symptoms associated with compassion fatigue and burnout as a combined condition rather than two distinct syndromes, which could impact upon clinical awareness in New Zealand. Limitations of international and New Zealand literature are discussed and gaps within the research are identified, along with recommendations for future research in this area, especially from a New Zealand perspective.

‘Te Waioratanga’: Health Promotion Practice - The Importance of Māori Cultural Values to Wellbeing in a Disaster Context and Beyond

Emma Rawson

Keywords: Māori, wellbeing, Te Waioratanga, Māori health promotion, responsiveness

In September 2010 and again in February 2011, the city of Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand was hit by significant unexpected seismic activity resulting in the loss of over 180 lives and over half of the inner city. To date, there have been over 11,000 earthquakes in the Canterbury region since the first major quake in September 2010. Efforts to support social and psychosocial recovery have been a constant challenge. Te Waioratanga, meaning the activation of wellbeing, is a health promotion project in direct response to 2013 research by the All Right? campaign. All Right? was developed by the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand and the Canterbury District Health Board, with the aim of empowering Canterbury residents to take simple steps towards psychosocial recovery. Their research findings clearly showed that the campaign had not been as effective for Māori, indigenous New Zealanders, as for the mainstream population. Te Waioratanga was launched as a vehicle for the All Right? campaign to address mental health and wellbeing needs of the Christchurch Māori Community. Its unique strengths-based formula and positive messaging engaged Māori and non-Māori alike. Te Waioratanga symbolises the soundness of mind and body that comes from doing simple things to support one’s wellbeing. Te Waioratanga allows Māori to take pride in relevant aspects of Māoritanga, or Māori culture, while sharing them with the world. This project has been an example of a highly effective relationship between the Canterbury District Health Board, Ngāi Tahu –who are mana whenua or indigenous people of the area, the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand, and the Christchurch City Council. The current paper looks at the translational process from research to Te Waioratanga implementation and highlights the unique contribution that Māori culture has to offer to wellbeing in a post-disaster context.

An Innovative Response to Family Violence After the Canterbury Earthquake Events: Canterbury Family Violence Collaboration’s Achievements, Successes, and Challenges

Lesley M Campbell & Susie J Jones

Keywords: family violence, collaboration, cross sector, disasters

There has been an increase in the reported incidents of family violence, sexual violence and child abuse following the 2010 and 2011 earthquake events in Canterbury, New Zealand. These increases have occurred both in immediate- and longer-term timeframes following the earthquakes, in line with previous research findings concerning an international range of post-disaster settings. Challenging events like the Canterbury earthquakes and series of aftershocks highlight the importance of, and provide the catalyst for, strengthening connections and working with various communities of interest to explore new ways of responding to the complex issue of family violence. It was within this context that the Canterbury Family Violence Collaboration emerged and began implementing a range of responses focused on five strategic priority areas: Prevention, crisis response and intervention, youth, housing and staff learning and development. The current paper describes experiences from this collaborative effort and lessons learnt by the Collaboration’s partners during the five years since its establishment. It describes the major achievements alongside key success factors and challenges as part of a unique contribution that enhanced awareness and responsiveness to the family violence experienced by Canterbury residents within the post-disaster setting. Over the past five years, the multi-dimensional, evidence-based package of system-level, whole-of-community initiatives successfully implemented by the 45 Government and Non-Government-Organisation member agencies could not have been undertaken by any single agency or sector. The Collaboration’s extended delivery of this unique package of prevention, workforce development and evidence-gathering strategies has made a significant contribution to the community, by assisting them to effectively recognise and respond to family violence following the Canterbury earthquake events.

Resilience in Youth With Type 1 Diabetes Following an Earthquake

Heidi Su, Helen Lunt & Kit Hoeben

Keywords: disaster medicine; type 1 diabetes, resilience

Disastrous natural hazard events impact negatively on diabetes self-care, with potentially catastrophic consequences for patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus. Insulin may be inaccessible or spoiled due to inadequate storage conditions, self-care apparatus may be misplaced or damaged, food security may be compromised and physical and psychological stress may contribute to unstable diabetes. However, following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, there was no increase in hospital admissions for metabolic decompensation observed. To better understand this apparent case of diabetes-related resilience, Youth aged 16-25 years, identified from a type 1 diabetes database, were asked complete an online questionnaire a year after the earthquake. This questionnaire asked about the physical and psychological consequences of the earthquake on diabetes self-management. Of the 63 respondents, 42 experienced major physical disruptions in their living conditions. Eighteen reported immediate changes in insulin requirements which settled after 4 to 210 days. Professional psychological support was obtained by 12 respondents and support from family was also considered important. Some changes were positive, for example one respondent commented on eating healthier, with less availability of junk food. Surprisingly, glycated haemoglobin, a measure of overall diabetes control showed only minimal change following the 2011 earthquake. In conclusion, while acknowledging that questionnaire respondents represent only a minority of local residents with type 1 diabetes, the metabolic impact of the earthquake on respondents was minimal in this patient subgroup. Awareness of disaster planning is likely to have been influenced positively by an earlier, September 2010 local earthquake and its aftershocks. Personal disaster planning should form part of the education curriculum for patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus.

Building Resilience Through Post-Disaster Community Projects: Responses to the 2010 and 2011 Christchurch Earthquakes and 2011 Tōhoku Tsunami

Maria R Dionisio & Eric Pawson

Keywords: community resilience; earthquake recovery; community-driven projects; Christchurch; Tōhoku

The 2010 and 2011 earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand resulted in severe damage and human injury, and an unfolding process of social and economic disruption across the city and region. The 2011 Tōhoku North-Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami caused unparalleled destruction and loss of life. Japan and New Zealand have taken distinct cultural approaches to environmental disasters and resilience. However, both events prompted significant community responses, from which we can learn a lot about recovery, reconstruction and resilience processes. The current paper provides an overview of the two disasters, their contexts and key issues, and analyses community-driven projects. The governmental response in driving recovery and reconstruction in both cases has often marginalised community engagement in decision-making processes. There is nonetheless widespread evidence of locally driven, dynamic approaches to community and environmental needs, as illustrated by the examples discussed herein. The paper concludes with a set of lessons for community resilience before discussing implications, including challenges to top-down planning.

Ripples of Recovery and Resilience: Tracking the Effects of the Canterbury Earthquakes on Older New Zealanders

Fiona Alpass, Sally Keeling, Brendan Stevenson, Joanne Allen & Christine Stephens

Keywords: older people, longitudinal study, reported earthquake effects

Participants from the longitudinal Health, Work and Retirement study of older New Zealanders (N=1,970), were surveyed in 2010, before the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquake events, and again in 2012 and 2014. A variety of direct and indirect effects of the earthquakes were reported by older people across all of New Zealand and these persisted over three years. Although over a quarter of the study’s participants reported effects of the earthquakes, these effects reduced with both physical and temporal distance from the earthquake events. Provision of social support to family and friends was widely reported, but decreased over time. Emotional and economic impacts were more likely to be reported in the longer term. After taking into account general changes in the health and wellbeing of older people over time, there was no effect of exposure to earthquake effects on health. However, there was a short term benefit on emotional loneliness for those affected by the earthquakes, with those who had experienced the earthquakes more likely to report reduced loneliness in 2012. This study is a reminder that through family and social connectedness, older people in New Zealand can be part of post-disaster recovery and resilience, in ways that are not simply related to immediate exposure.

Thriving After Trauma: Posttraumatic Growth Following the Canterbury Earthquake Sequence

Rebekah Smith, Virginia V W McIntosh, Janet D Carter, Helen Colhoun, Jenny Jordan, Frances A Carter & Caroline J Bell

Keywords: posttraumatic growth, resilience, gender, earthquake

Existing theoretical models of posttraumatic growth hold that distress and struggle are necessary, to produce the challenges to world views believed essential for psychological growth. Such models do not incorporate the construct of psychological resilience, and existing research has not examined posttraumatic growth among resilient individuals. The current study explores the association of resilience and posttraumatic growth in a group of individuals coping well after moderate-to-high exposure to earthquake-related events in Canterbury, New Zealand, following an extended earthquake sequence, including four earthquakes of magnitude greater than 6.0 Mw that caused 185 deaths, thousands of injuries, and substantial damage to residential and commercial buildings and infrastructure. Posttraumatic growth, severity of trauma exposure, distress in response to earthquake-related events, and stressful life events were assessed in 101 Canterbury residents, aged 18 to 72 years of both genders, who were coping well after moderate-to-high exposure to earthquake-related events. Higher levels of posttraumatic growth were associated with higher levels of ongoing earthquake-related distress, and greater difficulty with life events over the previous five years. Women reported greater posttraumatic growth than men, particularly in the posttraumatic growth domains of appreciation of life, personal strength, and relating to others. Women reported higher levels of distress related to their earthquake experiences and more difficulty with stressful life events than men. Both distress and difficulty with life events appeared to mediate the association between gender and posttraumatic growth. Results indicate that higher levels of resilience were not associated with posttraumatic growth, and posttraumatic growth may therefore not be an aspect of resilience. Such findings are important for extricating the constructs of resilience and posttraumatic growth after trauma, and understanding that posttraumatic growth can exist in resilient individuals. This is because resilience does not appear to prevent an individual from processing an event to find positive significance in a traumatic event and to develop posttraumatic growth.

All papers are protected under the Creative Commons attribution as per our copyright notice.

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